Greg Thielen: Bumper Sticker Politics in the Age of Trump
I grew up in Arizona during a time when it was more desert than concrete, when there were a lot of dirty pickup trucks sporting gun racks, roll bars, and, more often than not, those ever-so-clever bumper stickers. We’ve all seen them. These Colors Don’t Run…. If You Don’t Stand For Our Troops, Feel Free To Stand In Front Of Them…. America; Love It Or Leave It.
In the Internet Age, we have more efficient ways to communicate our simple, and often hateful, messages. The medium that seems best suited to this way of making a point is, of course, Twitter. Tweets are the new bumper stickers — short, pointed, and shallow. And, our Twitterer-in-Chief finds that this form of communication suits him best. Why does this medium fit him so well? Is Trump truly as simplistic, lazy, and immature as he seems — a thirteen year old screaming out from a bloated, orange, seventy year old’s body? Or perhaps he is more shrewd than he seems? After all, during the 2016 campaign, he used Tweets to fire up his followers and get on the news every evening, garnering billions of dollars of free coverage.
Or perhaps Trump’s love of Twitter speaks to how he views the American people. He seems to believe that we are not any more interested than he is in understanding difficult issues such as climate change, war and peace, public education, economic growth, and foreign policy. Weighing and balancing opposing arguments, as Obama did, is not the Trumpster’s thing, and he thinks it’s not our thing either. He defends himself in 140 characters. He defames people in 140 characters. He lies about Obama wiretaps and Comey tapes in 140. Trump is not interested in dialogue. He doesn’t seem to understand that true communication between a leader and his people is always two-way: call and response. True communication embodies the implicit message that I care enough to listen to you. Communication embodies respect. Ignore another’s opinion and voice, and you have ignored his or her existence. To Donald Trump, I am less important than the 140 characters of his latest lie. When was the last time he stood before our nation and spoke honestly to all of us? Never.
I fear that Donald Trump is a sociopath with an inability to communicate to anyone other than himself. With every other president, no matter how much I disagreed with his policies, I always believed that he had a passionate love for the country and its people. OK. Maybe not Nixon. But Trump? Trump has proven himself incapable of loving and serving anything other than himself. Oh, wait. And Russia. He seems to love himself and Russia/Putin more than anything. Certainly, more than the United States. What else can you say when he treats a trusted public servant like James Comey in the manner in which he did, and then welcomes the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office, throws out classified information jeopardizing our nation’s security, and mugs for the camera while gripping their hands? Trump didn’t even call Comey on the telephone. If Comey deserved to be dismissed, Trump should have invited him to the Oval Office, shook his hand, thanked him for his years of exemplary service, and respectfully sent him on his way.
And since I’m on the subject of failing to serve anything other than one’s own interests, any Republican in the house or senate who still chooses to follow Mr. Trump, especially after these last few days, can follow him all the way out of office. If there is anything good that I can see in Trump’s short but disastrous attempt at playing president, it is that his stink will never come off any Republican who still chooses to hang onto his soiled coat tails. It is quite obvious which members of congress have chosen to serve the people who put them in office.
Which brings me back to bumper stickers. In particular, the one that reads America; Love It Or Leave It. I despise that bumper sticker. I live in the southwest. I had to read that imbecilic sticker at every stop light during the yellow-cake-Iraq-invasion days. I absolutely hate it. Which is why I’m going to use it now. I am going to speak the language of simpletons like Trump. And I am going to use it against Trump and all the Republicans who still choose to follow him after today. America; Love It, Or Leave It! Trump can go to Russia and ride shirtless on a stallion. And Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell can muck his stables. And if Trump doesn’t leave, then we should Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!
Or even better let’s get beyond bumper sticker politics. Let’s show our children how adults respond to crisis. Let’s offer an example of how to have a conversation about complex problems. Let’s show our children the value of the Constitution and the proper role of the branches of government. Let’s show them the importance of honesty and justice. We can begin with a lesson on the process of impeachment. Let’s begin discussing, communicating that terrible reality of resistance, giving our country and its people the love and service they deserve. We are worth more than 140 characters. We are worth more than a bumper sticker philosophy.